Online Legal Education Compared: Australia, Japan and (Far) Beyond

Together with past ANJeL Visitor and Program Convenor (ANJeL-in-Japan), Seijo University Professor Makoto Ibusuki, I have been appointed General Reporter by the venerable International Academy of Comparative Law for a project comparing “Online Legal Education” across around 20 jurisdictions world-wide, including Australia and Japan. Draft National Reports will be received by January 2022 so we can draft our General Report, summarising key findings, to be presented at the four-yearly IACL Congress – this time hosted over 23-28 October 2022 in Asuncion (Paraguay). We plan then to co-edit a book in the IACL’s series published by Springer.

We hope to get and share insights into how online (university or other) legal education interacts with each jurisdiction’s legal profession, university system, and ICT infrastructure, as well as how online legal education has developed both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is the draft “questionnaire” we provided to guide (but not dictate to) Reporters preparing their chapters, and the current list of jurisdictions and Reporters nominated by IACL national committees. We welcome feedback on other questions or angles on this practically important and theoretically interesting topic for comparative research.

  • A. Background: Legal Profession, University and IT Systems Generally
    • Who are the main “gatekeepers” to the legal profession (cf Anderson & Ryan, 2009)? Does its corresponding size and nature make it generally harder or easier to move (university/qualifying or continuing) legal education online?
      • The existing legal profession (eg like Japan: bengoshi lawyers, negotiating with the Ministry of Justice and courts): tends to result in smaller legal profession, but still many other LLB graduates (not qualified as lawyers)
      • Universities (eg like Australia previously or now NZ: LLB and JD graduates can almost all qualify as lawyers, as they they need to just complete a short easy practical training course, so the numbers of law students allowed into universities – by the government as in NZ, or by universities themselves since 2011 in Australia – determines the size of the legal profession): tends to result in a larger legal profession
      • The market (eg like USA: as there are so many accredited law schools, and state bar exams are easily passed at least after a few attempts, so the numbers of lawyers is really determined only by whether students think they will be able to get a job as lawyer after graduating): tends to result in the largest legal profession
    • How are universities (and law schools) generally funded? Does this make it harder or easier to move legal education online?
      • Eg universities in Australia: growing dependence on international student revenues, including more recently in law – many are non-native English speakers (eg from China), so may be more difficult to move effectively their legal education online
      • Cf universities in Japan: still much lower international student proportions, especially in law; correspondingly more emphasis on research, so maybe easier to move online
    • How widespread is access to good-quality and affordable IT hardware (computers etc) and software (including internet access), among university students/teachers and legal professionals?
      • Eg in Australia: quite good for both groups, making it again easier to move university/qualifying & continuing legal education online
      • Cf in Japan: quite good for lawyers but less so for judges/courts, variable for university teachers, quite bad for many university students
  • B. Moves Towards Online Education:
    • Summary achievements before the pandemic, in light of the above background
      • University and/or qualifying legal education
      • Continuing (post-admission) legal education
    • Achievements and challenges after the pandemic
      • Briefly re continuing legal education
      • Details for university and/or qualifying legal education
        • Course/program goals (any revisions needed?)
        • Course assessment methods (fewer exams, more assignments and/or essays? Changes to grading curves?)
        • Delivery methods (purely online eg live and/or pre-recorded, hybrid with some face-to-face teaching?)
        • Other administrative challenges (eg more plagiarism?)
        • Student welfare and extra-curricular activities?
  • C. Conclusions:
    • Overall, has the shift to more online education been positive?
    • With (big!) assumptions of similar structure for legal profession, university funding and IT systems, what are the prospects for further online legal education as the pandemic abates?
1. Australie/Australia William van Caenegem (Bond  University) & Trish Mundy (University of Wollongong)
2. Belgique/Belgium Jan-Baptist Lemaire (KU Leuven)
3. Brunei & Malaysia / Singapore


4. Canada 
Nobumichi Teramura (Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Institute of Asian Studies) & Salim Farrar (University of Sydney, Law School)

Adrien Habermacher (UMoncton)
5. Chypre/Cyprus Lida Pitsillidou (UCLan) 
6. Croatie/CroatiaMirela Župan (University  of JJ Strossmayer in Osijek Faculty  of Law)
7. Danemark/ Denmark Per Andersen
8. Estonie/Estonia Age Värv (University of Tartu,  Faculty of Law) 
9. Etats-Unis/USAMichael Hunter Schwartz  (University of the Pacific,  McGeorge School of Law)
10. Hongrie/HungaryIstván Hoffman and András Szabó (Eötvös Loránd Université)
11. Italie/Italy Rossella Esther Cerchia  (University of Milano Statale) 
12. Japon/Japan Kenichi YONEDA (Kagoshima  University)
13. Macao/MacauRostam J. NEUWIRTH, Alexandr SVETLICINII, Muruga Perumal RAMASWAMY (University of  Macau) 
14. Norvège/Norway Tobias Mahler (University of Oslo)
15. Pakistan Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad 
16. Pays-Bas/ Netherlands Ernst van Bemmelen van Gent 
17. Roumanie/ RomaniaDaniela-Anca DETESEANU  (Universitatea din Bucuresti)
18. Royaume-Uni/UK 

19. Seychelles

20. South Africa
Andra le Roux-Kemp  (University of Lincoln)

Nyasha Noreen Katsenga (University of Seychelles)

Edwin Coleman (University of Johannesburg, CICLASS)
21. Tchéquie/Czech  RepublicDavid Sehnálek (Masaryk University)
22. Turquie/Turkey Elif Küzeci  (Bahçeşehir University) 
23. VenezuelaEugenio HERNANDEZ-BRETON  (Universidad Central de  Venezuela, Universidad  Monteavila, Academia de  Ciencias Politicas y Sociales)

Author: Luke Nottage

Prof Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM Kyoto) is founding co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), Associate Director (Japan) of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), and Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School. He specialises in international dispute resolution, foreign investment law, contract and consumer (product safety) law.